Madrid salvages win over last-place Almeria
MADRID (AP) — Real Madrid needed help from VAR — a lot of help — to avoid an embarrassing setback at home against last-place Almeria in the Spanish league on Sunday.
Madrid got three favorable video reviews in the second half, then scored a winner nine minutes into stoppage time to rally to a 3-2 win over the only team yet to win in the league this season.
The dramatic late victory kept Madrid one point behind Girona, which continued its surprising run for the title by routing relegation-threatened Sevilla 5-1 with a hat trick by Artem Dovbyk.
Madrid has a game in hand compared to Girona.
Barcelona moved back into third place with a 4-2 win over Real Betis, with substitute João Félix breaking the deadlock in the 90th minute and Ferran Torres completing his hat trick in stoppage time. The Catalan club remains seven points behind Madrid and eight behind Girona.
Dani Carvajal scored Madrid's winner from close range after a cross into the area, delighting the crowd at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium and sending the Almeria players into despair.
The goal came after three separate VAR decisions allowed Madrid to stay in the game after trailing 2-0 in the first half. Madrid was awarded a penalty kick that made it 2-1, saw an Almería goal disallowed that would have made it 3-1, and got the 2-2 equalizer after the goal had been initially disallowed by the referee.
“We played a good match, but someone decided that we couldn't win here,” Almeria defender Marc Pubill claimed.
Almeria coach Gaizka Garitano was sent off in the final minutes for complaining, and said it wasn't the first time this had happened to him at the Bernabeu.
“What can I say... I don't have words to summarize what has happened here," he said.
Even Barcelona coach Xavi Hernández weighed in on the controversial VAR decisions at the Bernabeu.
“I had already said it, it’s going to be very difficult to win this league. There are things that are not making sense to me,” Xavi said. “We’ll see how it goes, but some things we can’t control. Everybody saw what happened today.”
Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti saw it differently.
“I understand why Almeria is upset with the VAR decisions, but I think they were all correct," Ancelotti said.
Madrid was coming off a loss to Atletico Madrid in extra time in the round of 16 of the Copa del Rey on Thursday.
It was the fifth straight game in which Madrid conceded at least a goal. Opponents scored 10 times against Madrid in the team's last four matches in all competitions.
“We played very poorly in the first half and I'm mad at myself because I didn't evaluate the last practice session properly. The team was tired,” Ancelotti said.
Almeria took a surprising two-goal lead into halftime after Largie Ramazani scored from inside the area in the first minute and Edgar González found the top corner with a long-range strike in the 43rd. Both goals came after mistakes by Madrid defender Nacho Fernández.
Jude Bellingham moved Madrid closer by converting a penalty kick in the 57th after VAR and the referee determined there was a handball by an Almeria defender.
Almeria thought it had regained a two-goal lead when Sergio Arribas scored in a 61st-minute breakaway, but a video review said there was a foul by Almeria midfielder Dion Lopy on Bellingham in the buildup.
In the 67th, Vinícius Júnior had a goal disallowed by the referee because of a handball, but VAR notified the referee again, and he said the Brazil forward used his shoulder to score.
Almeria also complained after the referee gave 11 minutes of stoppage time. The game eventually ended with 13 minutes of added time.
TORRES' HAT TRICK
Barcelona kept pace with Madrid despite squandering a two-goal lead after Torres' pair of first-half goals.
Isco scored both goals for Betis, which dropped to ninth place. Manuel Pellegrini's team has only one win in its last eight matches in all competitions.
Dovbyk scored his hat trick for Girona by the 19th minute, with Viktor Tsygankov and Cristhian Stuani adding second-half goals for the hosts.
It was the fourth league loss in a row for Sevilla, and its sixth in seven matches. It sits in 17th place, one point above the relegation zone.
Earlier Sunday, Osasuna squandered a two-goal first-half lead but earned a 3-2 victory over Getafe with a winner by Jesús Areso in the 80th.
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